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French press review 23 May 2016


Most French voters still believe in politics. Their Austrian counterparts have been voting for a new president this weekend in an election seen as a warning that dislike of the European Union is on the rise. And is it reasonable that the international aid system continues to be dominated by non-governmental organisations based in Western countries?


The headline on the front page of Catholic daily La Croix is a real shocker. It reads "The French love politics".

This is on the basis of an opinion poll which suggests that 60 percent of French voters remain either very or moderately interested in the political life of the nation, with nearly three-quarters of those polled saying politics is a daily subject of conversation with family and friends.

In sharp contrast, a majority fail to see the use of the murderous party primaries intended to choose presidential candidates along the lines normally associated with street fighting.

Thirty-eight percent of voters would like to see an end to the left-right divide. Others would like to be more involved in decision-making, calling for the organisation of referendums on major questions in education, spending, tax, work and security. Many voters feel this sort of thing could be cheaply and rapidly organised using the internet.

Only a tiny proportion of those polled by La Croix would consider joining a political party; fewer would be prepared to work for such a party; and just three percent would put their hands in their pockets to finance a presidential candidate.

Most people questioned feel that French politics has to change, with 39 percent putting their faith in a new generation of leaders and 38 percent saying the future is in the hands of citizens' movements.

In 1789 that sort of talk cost the king his crown and, eventually, his head.

Austrian elections set European alarm bells ringing

Both centrist Le Monde and right-wing Le Figaro give pride of place to yesterday's presidential vote in Austria.

Le Monde says this has been an election against Europe's elites with a clash between the far right and an ecologist replacing the expected confrontation between the two blocs which have dominated Austrian politics since the end of the World War II.

Le Figaro feels that the strong performance by the right-wing nationalist Norbert Hofer is a warning to the whole of Europe. The anti-European far right won as much as 40 percent of the vote in the first round in some regions and Hofer has a two-point lead nationwide as we wait for the results of the postal vote from Austrians overseas, expected to account for 14 percent of voters.

We should know the result this afternoon.

Erdogan prepares action against pro-Kurd party as Europe turns a blind eye

The main headline in communist L'Humanité accuses Turkish President Erdogan of killing democracy. This is a reference to Friday's decision by the Turkish parliament to temporarily lift parliamentary immunity, a move which, according to L'Humanité, leaves 51 deputies of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) open to summary arrest because they are said to support the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), considered a terrorist organisation by the Turkish state.

The Communist Party daily says Erdogan's administration has responded to last year's election of nearly 80 Kurdish deputies with a wave of violence and corruption, officially intended to restore democratic order.

The reason this is particularly interesting right now is that 70 heads of state and government are due to meet in Istanbul later today for an international humanitarian summit, organised by the United Nations. And Europe, of course, badly needs Turkish cooperation to ensure that the feared flood of Syrian migrants never reaches our shores.

Le Monde says the possibility of an independent homeland for the Kurds has been damaged by the political and economic crises ravaging Turkey and the wider region, by the war against the Islamic State armed group, and by the refugee crisis.

In a separate article, anticipating the Istanbul conference, Le Monde wonders if it is reasonable that the aid business continues to be dominated by non-governmental organisations based in Western countries.

There's a need for a new way of organising international aid to take account of the growing commercial and political clout of countries like India and China. And there's also a need for the Western agencies to step down from their pedestal and leave space for different approaches to the multinational aid effort.

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